★★★★☆ 

“VANQUISHED by a sorry jawbone, the victory was not in the arm, not in the weapon, but in the spirit.” So says the Book of Judges quote that opens this visceral, powerfully grounded boxing drama that leaves it all out in the ring.

It stars and is written by one of Britain’s finest working acting talents, Johnny Harris, and is a autobiographical tale of his early career as a boxer.

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It’s the story of Jimmy McCabe, a troubled former youth boxing champion who is down on his luck and scrapping around looking for any job that will pay.

After hitting rock bottom, he goes back to the boxing gym of his younger days where he reconnects with former trainer Bill (Ray Winstone), cornerman Eddie (Michael Smiley) and veteran promoter Joe (Ian McShane) who set him up for a big comeback fight.

There’s no doubt the boxing biopic has been done to death but Harris and debut feature director Thomas Napper bring real heart, soul and unwavering grittiness to make this one stand out from the crowd.

It’s a raw, visceral and intensely atmospheric piece of film-making, at once brutish and absorbing, but with an undercurrent of sensitivity to it, too.

That kind of gentle giant tenderness really keeps you invested in Jimmy as a man fighting his personal demons literally with his fists. Napper directs it with stark assuredness and unpredictability, not just in the encroaching darkness of the shadowy night-time scenes which keenly represent Jimmy’s mental state but in the boxing scenes themselves.

Sometimes we’re up close and personal, other times we’re viewing it from strange, afar angles. It keeps you on your toes as much as the reintroduction to the boxing world keeps him on his.

It has absolutely none of the flash of other, slicker boxing films but that’s an unending strength.

Jawbone is a familiar kind of redemption tale but one with admirable grit and authenticity woven into its very DNA.